All photography and text by Stu Jenks (c) 2015. (except for the Goggle Maps screen-save at the end of the post)
No one knows who made it.
My friend Tom Baumgartner, who initially showed me his Google Earth screen-save of the place, did a thorough web search but found nothing on it. No names. No photos. Nothing.
So I packed up the truck the next day and drove the four hours to see it for myself.
(Full disclosure: the license plate on my Pathfinder reads "Spirals.")
By dropping a pin on my Google Maps, I found the spiral just outside an entrance to the Kofa Natural Wildlife Reserve. Without Google Maps, satellites, smart phones and computers, I would have never found it, for it can not seen from the road.
I parked my truck when my phone told me to stop and walked toward where I thought it might be. I found it, and immediately knew what it was.
Some man or woman or people had carved a 60 foot spiral into the desert floor as a meditative labyrinth. I know a little about labyrinths being a big fan of the two at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and the one at Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona. I have walked these mystery mazes many times. I know how to do that: Clear my mind as best I can or rather, in my case, be aware of the bat-shit-monkey-mind-craziness I'm thinking, acknowledging that with as little judgment as I can muster, and eventually bring myself back to these two important questions:
What time is it?
Where am I?
I had Pamela's Baby Rocking Chair with me on Friday. I set up my sister's chair on the edge of the spiral, put on the 28mm prime on my 5D Mark II and took a number of images. I got one or two I liked. I knew I had coverage. I knew I was done for now.
So now it's time to pray.
I entered the spiral with Pamela's chair in one hand and my iPhone in the other. I took some video for my Facebook friends and upload it to the web as I walked. I thought about my worries about finding a new studio, my worries about not having enough money to pay my bills, my worries of perhaps I need to gain so more hourly employment, my worries about perhaps not being as good a boyfriend I thought I was. My worries, my fears, my thoughts, my thoughts, my god damn thoughts.
And I walked and walked and walked some more.
It's a very big spiral, a very long freaking walk I tell you, but I'm grateful to the long freaking walk because after not too much time, I was back on those two questions again:
Where am I?
What time is it?
Then suddenly I saw the bigger metaphor of this spiral. It's symbolic of my life's journey from birth to death. My childhood in the outer loops, each taking a long time to orbit the center, like how a single day was an eternity when I was a six. That it took less time for each cycle around, as I lived life and loved and approached my death in the center of the spiral, the last revolutions taking no time at all, like how Christmases come faster and faster each year now.
And then I arrived at the center. I put down Pamela's Chair and sat. I took a quick photo of me sitting in her chair with my iPhone. I sent that up into the inter-webs too, then sat back down in my little rocking chair and took it all in.
I don't think I thought about anything for a few minutes. Just sat. Looked at the distant mountains. Rocked in my chair. I maybe had one or two thoughts about how much time I had till the sun went down but that was about it.
I suppose the spiral had worked its magic.
After a while, I walked back out, enjoying the journey back to my birth.
I took some more shots once I exited. I watched the Sun set behind some mountains to the west. It started to get dark. Time to go. I loaded up the Pathfinder but first I drove down the few hundred yards to the kiosk at the entrance of the Kofa. Quickly I realized I was in the wrong place. I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be back at the spiral labyrinth. I raced back and caught the last bits of light in the sky. It was glorious.
I don't know if my walking the spiral really changed me that much. I was still irritated with a narcissistic woman in front of me at the McDonald's in Quartzite, who special-ordered every freaking thing off the menu, but I did have a delightful brief chat with a trucker, as we both waited for our coffee and food.
"You on the road?" he asked with a smile, thinking I was a trucker too.
"Yes I am," I said.
To get to The Spiral Labyrinth of Yuma County, take U.S. 95, south from Quartzite, for around 10 miles. (or you can come up from the south from Yuma as well.) Take a left (east) on to Palm Canyon Road and drive toward the Kofa Natural Wildlife Preserve. When you get to the entrance to the Preserve, turn around and drive back on the dirt road for around 400 yards. Park your vehicle on the side of the road and walk to the south a hundred feet or so. It's over there somewhere. Enjoy and be respectful. Someone or someones put a lot of work into making this sacred space. It is magical.
"Connecticut Children's Spiral: The Arizona Trail, north of Oracle, Arizona" (c) 2012 Stu Jenks
The above image taken with a 70-200 mm on a 5D Mark II. The below image taken with a iPhone 4S with the panoramic feature.
And my prayers, thoughts and yes, this one not-so-little spiral, go out to those in Newtown, Connecticut and across our country and world.
Hug your children and your loved ones a little longer tonight, and tomorrow, and next week, and during this holiday season, and throughout the new year. Love is precious, and it can be gone in an instant, in so many ways.
"Emigrant Canyon Earth Spiral, Arizona" (c) 2012 Stu Jenks
Good news: When I got a new iPhone 4S, I got a new camera as well. It's a pretty good camera, 8 megapixels, nice lens, easy use. I have a good wide angle lens in my pocket now.
Bad news: It only shoots jpegs. No RAW files. Pain in the neck to fiddle with in Photoshop, to get a good print using just jpges. I had to get a good print, and I did. Call me old-fashioned but if I can't get something good on a analog piece of paper, I could give a fuck. Photographic history will not be remember on glowing screens (I pray.) Photographic history will be seen by my ancestors on prints, on paper, not on TV.
But it's a pretty damn good camera for being a camera that's part of a phone. And after much work, I got a nice image.
Truth (for me): If I had my wide angle lens attached to my 5D Mark II instead of my 70-200, and shot this earth spiral with the wide in RAW, it would have taken me half the time to get a good print. RAW is just that great.
Image: "Queen Esther Baptist Church, Lancaster, Virginia" (c) 2011 Stu Jenks (Just down River Road from Victoria's house. Love that luscious red carpet. And for you nocturnals out there, it was handheld. Rare for me.)
In this time of making photos on iPhones and Macbook Pros and only looking on screens, I forget I'm a old-school guy. I make a 8 1/2 x 11 work print on archival paper of EVERY image I make. EVERY one. It's the only way, for me, to accurately check for color shift, density, composition, etc. I really like my iPad screen but it's no way to make a good print.
And I have hundreds, if not thousands, of work prints artist proofs at my studio.
If you see an image of mine on The StuBlog or on my old website or on the Fezziwig Press Store or in any of my books, there's a beautiful small print in a box somewhere, perhaps with your name on it. And since I'm organized, I can find it.
Many of you can't afford my larger prints. I understand. I don't have an extra 50 or 100 lying around either. But I do have an extra $20 for stuff I really like.
So if you see an image of mine on any of my sites or in any of my books and you want it, it's yours for $25, shipping, handling and tax included. (I believe in paying taxes, sales and otherwise.)
Just email me at my facebook page or through the StuBlog or at firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell me what print you would like or just pull the jpeg and send that to me.
I was just watching the Tarhells lose today in basketball, working on images at my computer when I thought, 'I bet people don't realize I have boxes of work prints here.'
You all do now.
Love and light,
p.s. Ignore the catagories belows. The computer went wacky. Another reason why I prefer a print in the hand as opposed to an image in The Cloud.
Been a long time coming for The Transpersonal Papers (1861-2010).
Three editors, two proofreaders, two designers, four printers, and hours, days, weeks, months, years, lifetimes, (I know I'm overstating), of writing, traveling, shooting, editing, remembering, hiking, and more writing, shooting, and editing, but I'm not complaining. No, no, no.
And apologies for not having the dough right now, to print The Transpersonal Papers as a coffee-table book as I had originally planned. ($10,000, it would have cost. Maybe someday.) But you now can buy it, for $14.95, as an Ebook on the Apple IPad, and I expect it to be available within a couple days on the Nook and the Kindle as well.
I just looked at it on my new IPad. The photos, text and design look grand.
And as an extra surprise, Bozo In Love is now up on IBooks too, ($9.95), as well as the rest of my catalog: Flame Spirals, Hoop Dancing, and Dementia Blues, on IBooks, Nook and Kindle.
Just in time for Christmas.
And don't worry. All but The Transpersonal Papers can still be bought as a book book through Fezziwig Press. I have plenty. Just go to www.fezziwigpressonline.com, for the hardbounds and paperbacks, but go to ITunes, today, (and Kindle and Nook, soon) for the ebooks.
Heavy sigh from my third story apartment balcony. I look out onto the Tucson city lights in the valley below. Cold, dry air embraces me. I inhale deeply. Exhale.
A very good night in the desert.
Think I'll make a cup of coffee with egg nog and play some Angry Birds on my new IPad.